Windows of Light

The thunderstorms roll in one after another. As they pass, micro-rivers flow over the landscape like splayed veins of water flowing into ever widening deltas. I come across one area where it seems fresh snow covers the ground, but it is just the congealed remnants of a hailstorm. As each storm cell passes, sunlight illuminates freshly washed wildflowers displaying their spring colors.

Big Summit Prairie is a magical place that hosts incredible botany in a geological anomaly. The ‘prairie’ is actually a steptoe or kipuka, an island of older lava surrounded by younger volcanic activity. Thousands of acres of flat green meadows, meandering streams, and dry scablands are the result of eroded remains of the older flows. It looks like it could be a collapsed caldera like Crater Lake but with solid earth in place of water. 

Even though the geology is fascinating, it is the flora that draws me here. This is a venue of hoarded color that overwhelms the visual sense. Yellow arrow-leaf balsamroot and white mule’s ears carpet the meadows, interspersed by flaming red Indian paintbrush. The perfect timing of this year’s visit reveals acres of camas lilies painting the earth in blue/purple hues. Many decades ago, native peoples occupied the area precisely to dine on this delicacy.

Every green meadow and silver grey to brown scabland host varied collections of plants adapted to each unique variation of soil and climate. The blue wild hyacinth (triteleia grandiflora) is one of my favorites, but I am not seeing any flowers this year. It is always a matter of timing but I am surprised, and a little disappointed, at their absence. 

I decide to take one of the numerous gravel tracks into an unfamiliar area and, as I crest a hill, there is an open tract of scabland peppered with numerous specimens of the missing blue hyacinth. I have never seen so many at one time. It is a gift of this particular moment that they proliferate in this particular place. I break out in laughter at my previous disappointment.

Each hyacinth plant has a whorled cluster of blossoms atop a one to two foot stem. As I closely examine a single flower, I observe six pale blue translucent tepals with a deep blue vein running down the center of each. Sunlight filters through the cluster of blossoms, scattering sky-colored light through tiny windows. My perception and what I perceive dance in sparkling union.

Life offers little windows of light around every next corner. We are more likely to discover or recognize these auspicious surprises when we let go of momentary disappointment. And, if we are willing to risk exploring unfamiliar territory, gifts of light abound. In the parlance of Vajrayana Buddhism, this is recognizing the radiance of the wisdom mind. Nature somehow demands this realization. The practice is to embody that realization and see wisdom-radiance reflected in all experiences.

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